Last Monday, Aimee Olexy visited our campus to host a cheese-sampling event and speak about food, farms and community. The event, organized by Sera Jeong, took place in the beautiful Wister Center and was limited to around two-dozen pre-registered students and staff members. Aimee is a renowned Philadelphia restaurateur best known for her marketplace Talula’s Table, and the co-owner with Steven Starr of the more recent Talula’s Garden and Talula’s Daily. Antonia Violante ’16, one of the students in attendance, was very impressed by “how tight [Aimee] is with Stephen Starr.” Talula’s Table has received numerous awards, including a top rating of 4 bells by Craig LaBan of the Philadelphia Inquirer, and remains among the toughest reservations in the region. Prior to opening her marketplace, she owned Django, whose success (it too received 4 bells) helped to elevate the status of BYOBs.
The lecture covered Aimee’s childhood and early influences that pushed her toward a culinary career. Additionally, she discussed her values surrounding food and community and the role that these values play in her restaurants and market place. All of her menus are strongly rooted in healthy, family-oriented food, and the ingredients are locally sourced and sustainably produced.
Finally, Aimee led the group in tasting 7 local cheeses: Sweet Grass Camembert, Smoked Signal, Bathed in Victory, Lamb Chopper, Fresh Chevre with Fig, Appalachian and Birch Run Blue. Attendees learned all about the proper way to serve and taste cheese for maximum enjoyment. Lessons included how to distinguish cow milk cheeses from goat or sheep’s milk based on their fat content and color; cow’s milk produces a yellower cheese, but goat and sheep cheeses tend to be closer to white in color. Harder cheeses are more compacted cultures that have been packed and aged for longer periods of time, leading them to have lower water content and fewer air pockets. Attendees were able to take away a new appreciation for cheese. Lizzie Kölln ’16, learned to move away from “the idea that cheese always accompanies a cracker or some sort of bread” and “to eat cheese purely for the sake of enjoying the flavors it offers on it’s own.” The event concluded with discussion and samples of two beautiful cakes baked by Sera – a rhubarb cornmeal cake with blueberry honey mascarpone and a lemon blueberry vegan cheesecake.